Thursday, 1 May 2008

Adopting existing ideas is boring

This really energised senior nurse asked me, after I told a story about working in the oil industry, whether I felt challenged in the job I'd been describing. She went on to refer to her own role as exciting and fulfilling. She was brimming with enthusiasm and delight as she described it. Later on in the day, as a group, we discussed power, motivation and trust.

While not a topic for discussion on the day, it dawned on me at the time that one of reasons for the slow transfer of existing knowledge from one place to another, from one team to another, might be because it just isn't interesting, exciting or motivating enough.

I often hear good practice, ideas and innovation all rolled into one. The same words and phrases are used and assumed to be the same. For the individuals and teams involved in the initial work, it may be an innovation - in the sense it was something new and exciting. It was part of it being meaningful to them. It may have enabled them to gain reward in the sense of recognition for their efforts. We know that these types of factors are very important in determining job satisfaction.

What happens to many of these early innovations is they reach the stage where someone else then decides they need to be spread wider in the system and adopted by others. What I'm wondering about is how we can make this adoption process meet the job satisfaction needs of the second line adopters. Because when they get given a list of what are now routinised tasks to integrate into their work, I am sensing they see this as extra work and this is landing on the dissatisfaction side of the motivation curve. Doing small cycles of change to integrate into their own context appears, in many cases, to be insufficient to stretch these individuals and teams to meet their needs for making this meaningful, challenging and reward based.

How can we take existing ideas and help others see these as novel in their own circumstances?

I have some provocations to reflect on:

a) Instead of continually using the phrase "Let's not reinvent the wheel" - how about encouraging a reinvention of the wheel. Instead, encourage a curiosity. Direct and focus the interest. Provide support and information where it may help. Avoid providing solutions unless asked. Insist on goal orientated outcomes and measure these.

b) Think of everyone, at every stage in the adoption process, as an innovator. In order to have the best job satisfaction, they just innovate in different ways. So how best can I find out for my system who like to innovate in which way? How best can I use this to get the result I need?

c) Instead of implementing tasks and going for outcomes, how can I deliver increased meaningful work and increased job satisfaction. Working on the basis that almost everyone wants to do a good job, my suspicion this may end up int he same place though from a different starting position.

What I'll be doing from now on is checking communication and materials designed for spread and will assess and ask how these are designed to motivate those receiving them. How will they provide meaning to their work? What reward and recognition systems are in place?

I'm not motivated to change my behaviour when bored, so it's hard to think who else might be.

CC 2008 Sarah Fraser Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative

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